AF’s Weblog

January 27, 2010

Novation Launchpad: Who’s Pad?

Novation Launchpad Gear Review

Novation surprised everyone by bringing out an Ableton Live dedicated control surface. Like Akai’s APC? Not really, and obviously not at the same price.

Even though the Ableton Live revolution already goes back several years, it is noteworthy that dedicated control surfaces started to appear very late on. Except for Faderfox and Livid – which were the first to offer products conceived for Ableton’s baby – most manufacturers limited themselves to offering Live mappings for their generic controllers. The market started to get interesting for Abletoners when Akai launched its APC40. Following Akai steps, Novation introduced its own Live controller, but with a serious advantage: it’s sold for under $200 – half price of the APC40. So let’s take a look at what Novation has to offer for that price.

Novation Launchpad

The Launchpad is basically an eight-by-eight pad matrix with 16 function buttons made out of the same smooth, translucent plastic as the pads. All buttons are backlit (green, amber or red, depending on the application – we’ll come back to this later). The device is a 6.45″ long and 1.2″ thick square. It weights about 1.5 lb. and is equipped with four large rubber feet to ensure it stays secure and perfectly stable on almost any surface, even when you hit the pads. There’s nothing to criticize the finishing quality about except for the pads’ hardness, but that ought to change with time. We appreciate its lightness and compact dimensions that allow you to take it with you in a backpack along with your notebook for mobile applications.

The device has only one USB connector. No MIDI in/out/thru, no sustain or expression pedal connector, only the bare minimum! But Novation points out that you can use several Launchpads at the same time using a standard USB hub. However, we received only one unit for the review so we couldn’t test this setup. We recommend you to use a USB hub with a power supply because the Launchpad is powered via the USB connector and it might be too much to ask from your computer to power several units at the same time, especially if it’s a notebook…

The device is, obviously, provided with a dedicated Live version (limited to eight scenes, though). Once you install Live and the drivers, you just have to declare the Launchpad as a control surface in Live and you’ll be ready to go. As a (funny) side note: the program installed the Novation Audio Control Panel on my computer, which is less than useless considering Launchpad is a MIDI-only control surface and I only got error messages when I tried to open it…

Among other regrettable details, I’ll mention the two-page Getting Started guide provided as “documentation” with the product. It’s true that the Launchpad is a masterpiece regarding intuitiveness but I still find it hard to believe that it takes only two pages to describe how it works… I bet Novation had to sacrifice such details in order to command such a low price. On the other hand, the manufacturer provides some nice video tutorials on its YouTube website which are clear enough to compensate for the lack of a serious user’s manual.

Conclusion

The rugged, compact and light Launchpad will surely be a success among Ableton Live fans who can’t afford an Akai APC40. Novation clearly gave a lot of thought to its product, and even though some aspects could still be improved, it will definitely win you time and improve your ergonomics. As a result, you can rest assured that you’ll see it on lots of stages and in home studios, and certainly under more than a few Christmas trees…

Advantages:

  • Extremely affordable price
  • Compact size and lightness
  • Rugged
  • Ergonomic and well thought out
  • Four modes for virtually any application…
  • Effective MIDI learn function
  • Several Launchpads can be used simultaneously

Drawbacks:

  • Lighting intensity hardly distinguishable by daylight
  • Not velocity/aftertouch sensitive
  • Continuous controllers set by steps: we miss encoders and faders…
  • The lack of track information display can get you lost in the matrix

To read the full detailed review see: Novation Launchpad

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September 4, 2009

Novation Remote Zero SL MKII

Filed under: Control Surfaces — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 12:09 pm

When Novation announced Automap Universal at the 2007 NAMM many were instantly intrigued by the concept. Many producers and long time fans of MIDI control were eager to get this revolutionary product integrated into their set up. Now with the Mk2series and Automap 3 available, Novation seems to have taken their product to a new level. Does it live up to expectations?

The software that arrived with my original Remote Zero SL (MK1) back in ’07 certainly didn’t disappoint. Plug-ins and virtual instruments that would have usually taken a substantial amount of time to map were instantly displayed across the unit’s two displays. The ease and speed of further customisation was also impressive for a version 1.0 product.


Since 2007, I have been an avid user and regular beta tester of the Novation Remote SL line and their associated Automap technology, so when the chance to review the new Mk2 version of the Remote Zero SL came up I was more than happy to take delivery of the unit and give it a test run…

Conclusion

This is no doubt one of the best dynamic midi controllers out there. With its slick design, innovative touch-sensitive, illuminated panel and mature software you can’t go far wrong. This is certainly an improvement on the last model and shows a step in the right direction when it comes to hands on control of production software. It’s a shame that the second display has been dropped and that there aren’t more endlessly rotating knobs on the unit but as I said before this isn’t the end of the world. Also it might be worth throwing this in a flight case if you want to take it on the road, though the plastic case, although well made, might not stand up to the rigours of regular gigging.

To sum up, I really love this device, in fact so much that I have hung on to the review model and it has become my controller of choice in the studio … And this comes form someone who has used, Mackie, Euphonix and Jazz Mutant products.Clear innovative touch sensitive controls

Advantages:

  • Illuminated buttons for clear feedback

  • Crossfader for digital DJs

  • Competitive price point

  • USB powered

  • Awesome, mature regularly updated software

Drawbacks:

  • Plastic casing throughout may not strand up to live shows

  • Only one display as opposed to the previous models two

  • No power supply as standard for use with low power USB hubs

To read the full detailed article see:  Novation Remote Zero SL MKII Test

April 8, 2009

Musikmesse: Novation SL Mk II

Novation talks about their new SL Mk II controller.

novation

For more Musikmesse videos and news visit Audiofanzine Musikmesse

February 5, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo Novation Automap 3

Filed under: namm 2009, Software — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:58 am

Presentation of the new Automap 3 Software for Novation MIDI controllers.

To watch all NAMM 2009 video demos visit us on Audiofanzine NAMM 2009.

December 22, 2008

Gifts for Music Lovers

Christmas Shopping

Are you tired of receiving boxes of chocolate every Christmas? You can’t take another hand-knitted sweater from your aunt and you’d like the bottom of the tree to look a little more…musical? Here’s a selection of gift ideas for your loved ones who may lack inspiration …

For Home Studios

The ultimate audio interface?
Prominently listed among the highlights of this year, TC Electronic’s Studio Konnekt 48 is a Firewire audio interface that features 24 inputs including 4 preamplifiers, 22 outputs, 12 simultaneous analog channels and world class DSP effects. Supplied with a remote control for around $1200, it’s one of the select few able to overshadow RME’s FireFace which, despite its numerous qualities, took a serious blow …

ProTools to go!
ProTools on a USB key; who would have imagined it? They did. Of course, the audio interface is ultra basic but thanks to the MBox 2 Micro, you can work your ProTools session on any computer, for a little less than $250. And since Transfuser currently comes with the package …

Little Adam
Halfway between a multimedia speaker and a near-field monitor, the Adam A5 is somewhat unique … There is the famous ribbon tweeter for which the brand is famous, guaranteeing quality highs, and bass response, which, given the size of the speaker, is no joke and makes it a worthy sibling of the famous A7, for a little less than $440 each. The ideal monitors for working in your apartment without disturbing the neighbors?

A half-legend?
Walking in the footsteps of the illustrious C414, the C214 is meant to be a more accessible version of the classic AKG mic. Featuring only one polar pattern but having the essential of what made the reputation of the large membrane microphone for under $600.

Night terror
It’s small, cute, inexpensive and it works like a charm. For less than $150, the Novation Nocturne will let you control your DAW and plug-ins while tasting the comfort of Automap technology.

26+26=2626
M-Audio’s high-end Profire 2626 has it all for those home studio owners who need a lot of inputs/outputs. Its preamps and converters meet our expectations and the price is around $700; did someone request a great deal?

Deus in machina
Widely used by the pros, the UAD-1 DSP card was nevertheless beginning to get old. So imagine our joy when we saw the UAD-2 arrive with a cornucopia of new plugins each as attractive as the next. And with prices that are not so “pro”, because between the small Solo to the big Quad, prices range from $500 to $1800.

Big Groove
The reference in virtual drummers is back! With 10 full kits and 55 GB of sounds and above all a complete mixer with a great effects section, Fxpansion’s BFD2 is a must for just under $400.

U47 USB?
If you’re looking for a simple way to connect a microphone (static or dynamic) to your computer, know that MXL has created the Mic Mate, an XLR to USB “adapter” incorporating a mic preamp and phantom power. It works without drivers, at the very reasonable price of around $50!

Multimedia Killers
Of course, with their 4″ boomers the Studiophile AV40 won’t do as studio monitors. Still, we’ve rarely come across such good multimedia speakers, with surprising lows for the size of the speakers, highs that’s aren’t bad at all, and great balance … The latest speakers from M-Audio have struck a strong blow to the competitors who offer roughly the same thing for much more, like Creative Labs, Logitech or Altec Lansing. At $150, the AV40 is probably one of the best options you can find for a traveling setup …

What if you changed sequencers…
We’ve got a thing for Reaper, a customizable sequencer, extremely stable, only a few MB, and costs, for non professional usage, fifty dollars. Where’s the catch? Why the discrepancy in prices? Well, we’re beginning to wonder …

Swiss army knife?
A recording studio in your pocket? It’s possible with the Boss Micro BR, a genuine Swiss Army knife that combines 4 tracks, a multi-effects processor, 300 rhythmic patterns and basic editing functions. It’s MP3 compatible, stores on SD cards, has a tuner, and an integrated microphone. What more do you need to know? The price? Around $200.

What a sound!
They look good, and work great, and what a sound. These tube and/or transistor preamps from Universal Audio give the best of both worlds …

Still haven’t found what you were looking for?  For more ideas read the full Gifts for Music Lovers article.

November 10, 2008

Test: Novation Nocturn review

Novation’s Nocturn: The Test
Novation is well known for quality keyboards, MIDI controllers and synthesizers, whether it be hardware or software. Does Nocturn, the newest member of the Novation controller family, featuring the Automap system and a low price, live up to the brand’s reputation? Let’s take a look… 

Nocturn

Automap

In recent years, several developers have been working on coming up with systems that would spare the user from having to go through arduous settings when using their control surfaces. MIDI learn, now almost universal, was a first step, but some have tried to implement systems that detect software settings and automatically affect them to the controls of the controller. Several companies have developed solutions along this line, notably Cakewalk with ACT (Active Control Technology) included in Sonar and Project5, and Novation with its Automap. The idea is that when you activate a plug-in, its various parameters will automatically be assigned to various controls on your controller. Nocturn is based on this system but can also function as a classic MIDI controller.

 

Conclusion

Even if the “Universal” Automap term is slightly misleading, we see that Nocturn still offers practical possibilities given its size and price. Above all, using it is pleasant and fun, … basically, everything you like when it comes to music. If you are well aware of its shortcomings, mainly its non-universality, it’s a purchase that is quite good for both the person without a controller and for someone well-equipped who’d like an additional controller that’s elegant and user-friendly, whether it be for a studio or mobile setup. It’s a success.

 Nice look 
 Pleasant controls 
 Easy installation and user-friendly 
 Stability and efficiency 
 Small 
 Video tutorials on Novation’s site

 Automap not “universal” 
 USB only (can only use with a computer) 
 A few aspects that are a little cheap 
 Necessitates another window on your screen

Read the full review of the Night Controller on Audiofanzine.

 

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